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French Open 2014: First round makes Grand Slam history

Li Na on her way to the Australian Open 2013 final
by Caroline Cheese
Tuesday 27 May 2014

Wimbledon.com's highlights from a record-breaking first round at the 2014 French Open at Roland Garros...

The Headlines
Just three days in and the 2014 French Open has already made history - not that Australian Open champions Stan Wawrinka and Li Na will want any reminding. The pair's opening-round defeats made it the first time in Grand Slam annals that both the men's and women's singles winners from the previous Grand Slam lost in the first round of the next major.

Wawrinka said he needed "to put the puzzle back together" after a sorry four-set defeat to Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez late on Monday, while Li was characteristically forthright as she admitted she "didn't have any idea how to play the match" in Tuesday's 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 loss to 21-year-old Kristina Mladenovic of France.

The grey, sometimes damp and occasionally blustery conditions haven't been easy for the players - nor the hardy spectators - but the title favourites have remained largely unruffled.

Of the men's 'Big Four', only Andy Murray dropped a set, while Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer breezed through in three - the latter delivering a first win under his new moniker : 'father of four'.

Eight-time champion Nadal opened the defence of his title on Court Suzanne Lenglen, causing something of a stir among some observers. The man himself brushed aside Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 and then  brushed off the perceived snub with a simple "doesn't matter…being around here is always gonna be great."

The King of Clay will surely return to the biggest stage for his second-round encounter with the fast-rising Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Serena Williams - hoping to become the first woman to win back-to-back Roland Garros titles since Justine Henin in 2007 - is on course for a third-round match against her sister Venus, their first at a Grand Slam since the 2009 Wimbledon final.

Maria Sharapova and Aga Radwanska - also comfortable first-round winners - both lurk in the top half of the draw with Serena, while the highest remaining seed in the bottom half following the exit of No.2  Li Na is Simona Halep.
 
Best match
Facundo Bagnis might have considered it an achievement just to make the first round here at Roland Garros after successfully negotiating Grand Slam qualifying for the first time at the 10th attempt, but he didn't stop there.

In a wildly fluctuating clash, the 24-year-old Argentine outlasted France's Julien Benneteau 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 3-6, 18-16 after 4 hours and 26 minutes.

Benneteau was playing in his 44th Grand Slam against a man making his debut on the biggest stage. After saving a match point and prevailing in a fifth set that lasted 2 hours and 24 minutes, an overwhelmed Bagnis sat courtside and sobbed into his shirt.

Biggest upsets
The aforementioned exits of Stan Wawrinka and former champion Li Na aside, how about the demise of 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov? The Bulgarian was regarded as something of a title dark horse after a semi-final in Rome and a first clay-court title in Bucharest last month, but was outgunned by Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4).

Former player and now respected commentator and coach Brad Gilbert tweeted to Karlovic: "congrats on some excellent clay court ball taking out Showtime Dimitrov, not sure I have seen u play better tennis."

The giant Croat is up against Andreas Haider-Maurer next as he attempts to make the third round here for the first time.

Unsung hero
First-round wins are not normally celebrated with such exuberance, but you can forgive Marinko Matosevic his memorable antics after beating Dustin Brown in four close sets late on Tuesday.



The 28-year-old Australian won a Grand Slam match for the first time in 13 attempts. After clinching victory, he dropped to the ground, rolled over in the red dirt six times and screamed with delight - and relief.

“Maybe a little bit over the top," he said of his celebration. "But just, yeah, huge relief… Feel like there is a huge gorilla off your shoulders."

His reward is a second-round match against seventh seed Andy Murray.

While we're on the subject of unsung heroes, the American men surely deserve a mention. It's a lean time for the once-dominant USA - who have just one man in the world's top 60 - but four American men have made it into round two: John Isner, Jack Sock, Donald Young and Sam Querrey.

Best video
Doing one-handed cartwheels on a damp clay court isn't perhaps the recommended way to warm up for a major - but then Gael Monfils isn't your average tennis player.

At Roland Garros' always entertaining Kids' Day, Monfils engaged in a brilliant dance-off with fellow French player Laurent Lokoli that made headlines both inside and outside the tennis world.




They said
"It didn't matter who played against me today, I'd always lose because I don't think she had a lot of pressure from me. I think I just gave away the match" - Li Na

"Congratulations? I lost…Are you serious? Did you watch the match?" Nicolas Mahut encounters a confused journalist, who went into a news conference believing the Frenchman had won.

“We had a nice chat. He’s a tennis player so I asked him how long he has been playing and how he is enjoying his time as a ball kid." Novak Djokovic after inviting a ball kid to sit with him during a rain delay.

"I usually allow myself a couple here and there, but on tougher occasions I allow myself more than usual." Maria Sharapova talks us through her macaroon regime.

“Midway through practice with Jack Sock, they (his friends) were all on the changeover and they were like, ‘The draw is out. Do you want to know who you play?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ They said, ‘Nadal.’ I don't think I made another ball the rest of that practice." Robby Ginepri on learning he would face eight-time champ Rafa Nadal in the first round

"Young folks today, eh? I’m just trying to hopefully stay alive myself as an older player." The 33-year-old Venus Williams on facing teenagers in the first and second rounds.

Best tweet

 

Follow the French Open live on ITV and at rolandgarros.com


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